I’ve been in a kind of bardo state

Reading time: About 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: bardo.

I read the novel The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt while on holiday last month. All 771 pages of it. It wasn’t the kind of book I’d ever attempt to tackle during my regular very busy working life. I needed the time and space of a holiday and the warmth of a deck chair in the sunshine to be able to manage it.

I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, however. I enjoyed Tartt’s earlier book, The Secret History a whole lot more. This one felt like a straight-up thriller with a slight veneer of the literary to it. But that was the only “slight” thing about it. The book was too long by at least a third (and maybe even a half.) I think Tartt suffers from J.K. Rowling disease: Editors don’t want to threaten success, so they take a “hands-off” approach to the manuscript.

Still, she had some interesting characterizations and a fine vocabulary. My favourite new word after reading this book? Bardo. Here’s how she used it:

I’ve been in a kind of bardo state, flying around in a gray roar, climbing with drop-spattered windows to laddered sunlight, descending to rainclouds and rain and escalators down and down to a tumble of faces in a baggage claim, eerie kind of afterlife, the space between earth and not-earth…

The word, which is Tibetan, refers to an “in-between state.” Most commonly, it means the state between death and rebirth, but there are other kinds of bardo as well, for example: birth, dreams and meditation.

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